The Gujarat Tenancy and Agricultural Land Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020 that deals with the sale of industrial land was passed in the state legislature, even as the Congress opposed it terming it as “pro-industry.”
Revenue minister Kaushik Patel tabled the Bill that makes changes to three different tenancy laws that are currently in force in the state. This includes the Gujarat Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948 which is applicable from Banaskantha to Dangs and the district of Amreli in Saurashtra, The Gujarat Tenancy and Agricultural Lands (Vidarbha region and Kutch Area) Act, 1958 and Saurashtra Gharkhed, Tenancy Settlement and Agricultural Lands Ordinance, 1949.
“As per Section 63 of the Gujarat Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948, a non-agriculturalist cannot buy agricultural land. In 1997, Section AA was inserted with the aim to allow bonafide industrialists to buy land. I have brought some amendments to this section,” said Patel.
The Bill allows lands bought for industrial purposes to be sold or transferred due to changes to the Common General Development Control Regulations or changes in partners of the company or acquisition of assets by courts. “With industrial advancement taking place at a rapid rate in Gujarat, a need has arisen to allow certain purchases being made for bonafide industrial use in the state,” stated the minister.
Congress MLAs opposed the Bill stating that the government is facilitating industrialists who have either been given land at token rates by the government or have bought land at throw away prices from farmers 10-15 years ago.
During the discussion on the Bill, Congress MLA C J Chavda said, “You made the first amendment in 1997 and now after 23 years you are bringing in changes… The number of farmers has decreased by 5 lakh in last five years. These farmers have become farm labourers… Those who have signed MoUs with the state government in Vibrant Gujarat have bought lands from farmers and have not been able to begin their industry. Now they can’t sell their land because as per the 1997 amendment, if the industry is unable to begin operations, the industrial land has to be returned to the state. So the state government has brought in a legislation today to solve their problems.”
Another Congress MLA Naushad Solanki said that the government had amended Section 63AAA in 2015. “As per the 2015 amendment, if an industrialist is unable to begin operations for five years and wanted to sell the industrial land, then the premium imposed by the government was 40 per cent of Jantri. Between 5 and 7 years of delay, this premium was 60 per cent and if the industrial land remains empty then a premium of 100 per cent of jantri was applicable during sale. But in the current amendment, the provisions have been reversed. If the industrialist wants to sell land in first three years, the premium imposed is 100 per cent of Jantri, for 5-6 years the premium is 60 per cent and for beyond 10 years it is only 25 per cent. This means that those who bought land 15 years ago and have been unable to begin their industry will have to pay a premium of only 25 per cent of Jantri. What is the reason for this change? Are we looking to favour some individual?” Solanki said.
Congress MLAs pointed out that Instead of farmers, industrialists now own most of the land located on the periphery of large cities like Ahmedabad.
MLA Punja Vansh said that the land belonging to four to five villages purchased by a cement company in Sutrapada has been lying idle for the last 10 years. Leader of the Opposition Paresh Dhanani said, “As per the existing law, a district collector can take back the industrial land if the industrialist fails to start his unit within 10 years. Now, this new law removes this limit of 10 years. The government has opened doors to help sell industrial land which has been lying idle for the last 10-15 years.”
Dhanani said the amendments in the Bill will lead to profiteering as those who bought Industrial land at cheap prices years ago, will be able to sell at the current market prices, by paying a small premium to the government.
Quoting figures tabled in the Assembly in the past, Dhanani said, “In the last two years, 27.52 crore square meters of agricultural land has been turned into non-agricultural land in Gujarat. The land for agriculture is decreasing.” He also said that as on August 2015, in the last five years, the state government has 2.87 lakh square meters of Gauchar land has been distributed to industrial houses.
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